Have you ever been warned to avoid asking the Lord for humility – because He will certainly provide the opportunities for you to be humbled? I certainly have! And yet, I still ask Him because I desire with all my heart to unite myself to Him to the extent humanly possible – and this requires humility, a dying to self, and total abandonment to Divine Providence.
I am truly amazed at the amount of grace the He offers me, a Southern girl trained with a rather stellar ability to immediately assess a “situation” and lower a verbal non-profanity laced “KABOOM” (of course, only if attacked/provoked) – accompanied by a big smile. Just think “Julia Sugarbaker” from the 1980’s series “Designing Women” – yes, I’ve been told that we have “similarities” in our ability to “break it down” for someone when the situation necessitated it. Thankfully, this was not a commonly needed “skill” over the course of my life – and I certainly have never had the desire to provoke or attack anyone (I have a pretty big heart that loves deeply). I’m grateful for that. However, honesty dictates the admission that being attacked by someone could indeed allow this “ability” to rise to the surface:) Not one of my personal attributes that needs any further cultivation, assuredly:)
In a worldly view, being able to quickly put someone in their place when attacked seems to be seen as an immutable right in our present culture. We see this everywhere, don’t we? It seems to be a characteristic that is to be desired and celebrated. The ability to “tell someone off” is apparently now greatly valued as a personality characteristic and expected – you only have to look at a television set to see examples of this, or simply examine the way in which people treat other people in our rather narcissistic culture today. Granted, sometimes the most loving thing that we can do (courageously, and always with charity) – is to admonish our brothers and sisters in their sin. In fact, this is a work of mercy to which we are all called. But, depending upon the situation and how the message is delivered, our response can be counter to what Christ calls us to. Just about anyone can tear someone down with words and behavior. But without the help of the Blessed Trinity, none of us can individually manufacture true love and humility – it is a grace from God alone.
As I grow in my intimate relationship with Christ, I find more and more that I am able to prayerfully discern when He is asking me to speak (in charity, and to what degree) and when He is asking me to be quiet. The more that I’ve immersed myself in actively embracing the virtue of humility, the more I’ve been given the grace to temper my tongue (and heart and mind) and instead use the moment as an opportunity to embrace humility and to be honed by Christ. This is not an overnight process, by any means. The Lord truly does provide each one of us with every grace necessary to do His Will. And He is infinitely patient as we are learning! It is simply magnificent how He changes your heart in the process of immersing in virtue. And there is great peace associated with seeking humility…and in the times when we are humbled.
Here’s my latest experience of being humbled, now just a few hours old. I am currently enjoying the majesty of one of God’s earthly paradises – Maui, Hawaii – with my husband. This morning I’d planned to get some work done while he was out on business, but encountered difficulty with internet connection in multiple locations all morning long. Around lunch time, I saw two people – a man and a woman – at a table in a well populated busy area just outside a cafe, working on their computers and who appeared to be having good connectivity. Given that I didn’t want to unpack my computer and work items yet again only to find that the connection wasn’t good – and since everyone here has so far been so incredibly nice! – I decided to ask them about their internet connectivity. The woman was on a cell phone, so I quietly approached the gentleman, and said, “Excuse me sir, I’m wondering if you are finding that you have a good internet connection here?”. They both looked at me as if I had three heads, and the gentleman then delivered what felt like a “verbal gut punch”. He yelled “WHAT DO YOU WANT!?!”, then put up his hand in my face and said “LISTEN, WE ARE DOING A MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR DEAL RIGHT NOW. DON’T INTERRUPT US”. Um…..WOW! I smiled, simply and confidently stated “My apologies”, and quietly walked away.
Now…I do understand the importance of handling important business uninterrupted, and especially appreciate that they were probably under a bit of stress given the stated circumstances. And, being a business woman myself, I understand that when we are in stressful business situation, it is very difficult to shift gears and entertain questions when your mind is engaged with the issue at hand. And, I do sincerely regret that I apparently interrupted some very significant business, although I had no way of knowing this at the time. Still, there were any number of better ways to handle this. And, I’m sure at least some of you may be thinking that…perhaps…a “Sugarbaker Kaboom” might have been in order…:)
Here’s the amazing part, which just illustrates how God works in the moment when we invite Him to do so. Rather than engage in a “Julia Sugarbaker” moment, Christ gave me the immediate grace to offer my apology, intimately embrace the embarrassment from the rather public humiliation, and step away smiling and in true peace and forgiveness (albeit with a stinging tear or two in my eyes). What I am finding increasingly more natural as I move along my journey of personal holiness is that I am able to “redemptively suffer” right in the moment, and offer whatever the particular feeling/emotion/insult is to Christ immediately, uniting it to His Cross for the reparation of sins and for all souls who are in need of His Love and Mercy. What was once a willed hard decision that took some rather significant effort over an extended period of time to prayerfully cultivate, is becoming more and more a part of my immediate response to the little moments of crucifixion that arise in my daily life. I imagine that this man and women might be very surprised to know that, while they were humbling me, I was redemptively suffering for them. Perhaps at this time in their life, they wouldn’t care. That’s really OK with me. My life’s purpose, my responsibilities, and heart’s intentions are to please my Heavenly Father – that is all. The responses of his other beloved children to my words and behavior are solely within the purview of their relationship with the Father, and something that they are responsible to Him for. Praying the Litany of Humility is very efficacious in helping me to remember where I end and someone else begins, commonly known today as “boundaries” (however, in this case, these boundaries are within a Christian viewpoint) – I highly recommend praying it often!
I thank God for the graces He gives me to follow His will, and for His unfathomable Mercy and forgiveness He offers when I fall. And fall I certainly do! But, when I have to say with a heavy sigh to Him in my heart….”Papa, I did it AGAIN“….I have the sure hope and assurance that Christ, Who is Love and Mercy Itself honors my purely intended efforts and sincerity of heart, and awaits me in the confessional to be reconciled with Him. But today, I hope that God the Father is happy with his daughter, who tried to follow His will in this moment, today.
Dear readers, please don’t think that you cannot embrace this gift of redemptive suffering, and of acquiring ever more virtue. If He can form my heart, mind – and rather strong will – He can certainly form you, too. That is, if you are open and docile to His Will. I am certainly only a work in progress – we all are! Ask Our Lady to help you. She was human just like us – the ultimate model of strength through meekness, humility, and authentic femininity – and our model of how we may be completely united to the Father’s will. She is ever available to our call for intercession and help to do God’s will, always leading us to Her Son!
Wondering if I will see this couple tonight at the Luau…..:) Opportunities to practice humility abound!
St. Faustina, saintly example of humility, pray for us! Our Lady of Good Counsel, pray for us!